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The 15 Best Chinese Translator Apps [Updated for 2024]

It might be an exaggeration to say that Chinese is the absolute hardest written language out there, but it’s definitely in the running and it’s pretty difficult to master.

Chinese may be challenging, but it’s not one that modern-day learners can’t handle.

We have something at our disposal which makes studying Chinese a whole lot easier: translation programs.

Here are the 15 best Chinese translator apps to supplement your language studies in 2024.

Contents

 

1. Best Online Translator: Google Translate

google-translate

Available on: iOS | Android

Yes, it has a reputation for producing hilarious errors. But it’s still arguably the best translator out there. You can use it for simplified and traditional Chinese characters.

Google Translate can rapidly translate huge chunks of texts and can even translate entire websites through a Chrome plugin. The resulting text, while far from perfect, is still generally comprehensible and follows (to a degree) the grammatical semantics of both Chinese and English.

This online application is constantly improving via user feedback and a process called machine learning. Competitors like Bing’s Translator use a similar approach, but since Google has more users, its software can learn and improve faster.

If you’re using the app version, you can access features that aren’t available on the web, like the ability to translate images of text or input Chinese characters via handwriting.

2. Best Document Translator: Yandex

yandex-translate

Available on: iOS | Android

Yandex is a popular online translator that can translate simplified characters from Chinese to English and vice versa.

The app includes audio to accompany translations, which can be particularly useful for language learners. The text input feature uses autocorrect, in case you’re struggling with characters.

Notably, Yandex has a 10,000 character limit, meaning you can use it to translate entire documents or web pages. (Also, it’s twice Google Translate’s character limit.) Besides text input, Yandex can also translate text from images as well as audio.

Yandex does seem to rely on Google and Bing for translations, however. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it combines the two powerhouses into one convenient package, it does mean that you may get a similar translation from Yandex as from Google Translate.

3. Best Menu Translator: Waygo

waygo

Available on: iOS

Waygo was specifically developed for reading menus. If you’re going to China, Japan or Korea, Waygo will help make sure you always know what you’re eating.

It can translate simplified or traditional Chinese text into readable English in real-time. Point your camera at a clearly printed menu, and watch as it deciphers your next meal.

The best part is that Waygo doesn’t need an internet connection. Almost all of the app’s core functionality can be used offline, making it especially useful for translations in regions with poor internet connectivity.

4. Best Phrase Translator: Bravolol

bravolol-dictionary-and-translator

Available on: iOS | Android

Bravolol’s Dictionary & Translator app can translate text between multiple languages, including English and Chinese. Along with the written form, the app also provides pronunciation of common phrases, helpful for those who travel a lot.

Aside from the translation feature, you can also use Bravolol as a dictionary and look up individual words. Dictionary entries come with audio pronunciation, example sentences and related words. You can bookmark words to review later.

Bravolol also offers language learning apps for anyone who wants more direct learning and practice. Best of all, you don’t need an internet connection to use these apps.

5. Best Character Translator: Purple Culture

purple-culture

Available on: web only

Purple Culture is a site that gives you instant character recognition and translation.

Rather than using your smartphone to take a picture, however, Purple Culture supports typing and handwritten character input on the web for Chinese to English translation.

Simply input the Chinese character you want translated, click the “Lookup in dictionary” button and get a dictionary entry for that character. Dictionary entries contain detailed information about strokes and radicals, pinyin and example words and sentences.

6. Best Word Translator: Pleco

pleco

Available on: iOS | Android

As you progress through learning Chinese, you probably need to translate tricky words and characters a lot. That’s where Pleco comes in.

This app is packed with useful character translation features. You can look up characters via stroke order, pinyin, zhuyin, touchpad drawing or your device’s camera.

Pleco supports both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. The dictionary entries contain a ton of information, including parts of speech, related words, example sentences and information about each character’s radical and components.

7. Best Single-character Translator: MDBG Chinese

mdbg

Available on: web only

To figure out an unknown Chinese character, simply copy and paste it into MDBG Chinese for an instant translation into English.

Unable to copy and paste? You can also write the Chinese character by hand. Keep in mind that proper stroke order is required, which may pose a problem for beginner Chinese learners.

The input and results are available in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, pinyin and English. Click on the three vertical dots next to the definition for more information, including example sentences in Chinese and audio recordings.

8. Best Picture Translator: Papago

papago

Available on: iOS | Android

Papago was developed by the popular Korean navigation company, Naver.

You can use basic text translation on the desktop version, or download the app to make use of its photo and handwriting translation tools. Point your camera at text, or write in the words and get an instant translation.

Papago can translate to and from English, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, as well as 12 other languages. It has an offline mode, so you can take it with you anywhere you go!

9. Best Voice Translator: iTranslate

itranslate

Available on: iOS | Android

iTranslate is like the translator cousin of Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. The app supports translations to and from over 100 languages, including Chinese.

iTranslate can process text, image and voice translation, and truly excels at the latter. Simply press the microphone button, speak and get an instant translation.

In fact, iTranslate even offers the Converse app for voice-only usage, which supports verbal translations to and from 38 languages. By speaking into the microphone, iTranslate’s Converse app can detect the language being used and automatically transcribe and translate it into English.

10. Best Chinese to English Translator: Baidu Translate

baidu-translate

Available on: iOS

Baidu Translate excels at Chinese to English, but not the other way around. This app is designed for native Mandarin Chinese speakers who need to communicate in English.

To get a translation, users simply speak Chinese into the app. The Chinese will be transcribed into the appropriate characters and then translated into English. Because the translation happens in written form, there’s no audio available.

Aside from voice translation, Baidu Translate has a phrasebook for common Chinese phrases and their English meanings. For multilingual users, the app also supports translations in 21 languages.

11. Best Real-time Voice Translator: Skype Translator

skype-translate

Available on: iOS | Android

With other voice translation apps, you have to pause while the translator works, read the text or listen to the audio before you proceed with your conversation. This isn’t the case with Skype Translator. 

The app uses advanced technology to allow Skype video calls to be immediately translated from one language to another. A Chinese speaker’s words will be actively translated into English via cloud software and vice versa.

12. Best User-friendly Pinyin Translator: Easy Pronunciation

easypronunciation

Available on: web only

This pinyin translator is as simple as it gets, but it definitely gets the job done. If you’re looking for a pinyin phonetic transcriber that’s straight to the point and can translate chunks of text easily, this is one to check out.

Copy and paste hanzi text into the box, and receive one of several options—including a transcription of pinyin words with tone marks, pinyin with tone numbers, IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) pinyin words with tone marks or IPA with tone numbers.

Simply click “Show phonetic transcription”, and you’ll see a few things. The first is the hanzi translated into pinyin. You can even select specific characters to see their individual translations into English.

You’re also able to create a downloadable learning worksheet based on the text you’ve entered—which is super convenient for language learners who want to keep studying!

13. Best Pinyin-to-hanzi Translator: Pinyin Input

pinyininput

Available on: web only

Pinyin Input is great for translating pinyin into hanzi characters quickly. A single pinyin word can actually translate to several different hanzi words, so this translator provides you with a lot of options to make sure you’re finding the correct character you need.

This input software isn’t ideal for typing out or copying and pasting chunks of text to translate. However, it’s great for practicing pinyin-hanzi input, which is necessary when you type in Chinese to, say, compose an email or social media update. If you want to translate pinyin into hanzi quickly to communicate with Mandarin speakers online, it’s worth exploring this website.

To use Pinyin Input, type a pinyin word without tones or uppercase letters in the box. A dropdown menu will automatically appear with all of the possible hanzi associated with that pinyin. Click the hanzi you want, then write more pinyin words you want to translate.

14. Best Hanzi-to-pinyin Translator: Chinese Converter

chinese-converter

Chinese Converter has a ton of handy translation tools, including a Chinese stroke order teacher, antonym lookup, simplified to traditional hanzi conversion, read-aloud text input and much, much more.

Regarding pinyin translation, Chinese Converter has you more than covered with this simple, user-friendly option. To start, copy and paste a chunk of hanzi text that you want to convert into pinyin. From there, select the type of translation you’d like produced. You can choose from pinyin with tones, pinyin with numbers, hanzi with pinyin in parentheses for each word, just to name a few options. Click “Convert”, and you’re set!

It also has a pinyin with numbers translator that can efficiently translate words into pinyin with tones. If you love a tool with bells and whistles, explore this website!

15. Best JavaScript-based Translator: DimSum Chinese Reading Assistant and Dictionary

dimsum-chinese-language-tool

Available on: web only

This tool is very different from the other translators we’ve listed. DimSum is a JavaScript tool that’s very easy to install. Once you’ve installed it, simply hover your mouse over hanzi or pinyin words that appear on websites, and you’ll automatically see a floating box with its respective pinyin or hanzi options along with possible English definitions.

This software is great because most internet browsers utilize JavaScript, so DimSum functions as an extension that doesn’t require you to copy and paste words into another tab. If you’re less keen on translating bulk words and more interested in being able to translate hanzi or pinyin quickly, try installing this one. It’s totally free to use!

Tips for Using the Best Chinese Translators

Use translators in different ways at different skill levels

The most important thing to remember when using translation apps is that you should only use translation as a supplement to learning Chinese, rather than a replacement for actual study.

When you’re a beginner, it’s okay to make heavy use of translation apps. However, you shouldn’t use the translation as a crutch, or think that you’ve learned a word simply by looking it up. Sometimes that new word will stick in your brain, and sometimes it won’t.

As your Chinese ability increases, you should slowly reduce your reliance on translation apps. Try to understand new words by context, as these analytical skills are exactly what you need to move up in fluency.

That’s why so many language programs have adopted this contextual teaching approach. For example, FluentU pairs interactive subtitles with native media clips to create immersive Mandarin lessons.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Eventually, by the time you’ve reached an advanced Chinese level, you should only be using translators to look up the odd unknown character.

Always check for mistakes

While translators have come a long way, they’re still far from perfect. This means that there will almost always be errors in what even the best Chinese translator apps produce, and these errors become more apparent when you have more characters to input.

As a result, it’s important for learners to never trust the raw translated output 100%. Always apply your own knowledge of Chinese to identify these errors, no matter how limited you think that knowledge is.

No translator can replace a good teacher

A final thing to keep in mind when using translators is that while they’re very useful, they can’t completely replace formal Chinese study and a good teacher.

While they can teach direct word-to-word translations, they miss out on much of the requisite grammar governing how a word can be used and in what context.

Additionally, given that Chinese has a large number of synonyms, it’s very important to sit down and actually learn the precise way of using a given word, rather than just its equivalent meaning in English.

 

All in all, translators come in many forms and are valuable companions for the eager Chinese learner.

That said, like many other good things, Chinese translators should be used in moderation.

Choose wisely, and use responsibly!

And One More Thing...

If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.

FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.

FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.

The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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